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Fascism in Germany and Italy

Emmalee Wagner

Pols 2300

April 20th
Fascism is the antithesis of the modern political philosophies. It opposed anything

modern and discouraged individualism. The modernizing world allowed for individual freedom,

but during and after the turmoil of the First World War, fascists promoted “strength through

unity”. By letting go of individual freedoms, people could find safety and security and strengthen

their country. They also promoted ultra-nationalism and elitism and racism, trying to create a

population of citizens who wholeheartedly support the state and believe themselves and their

nation-state to be better than others. Many of their other core beliefs are direct opposition to the

ideas of the Enlightenment.

Germany did not fare well after the First World War. The Prussian Empire fell, the

Weimar Republic was created by the victors of the war, and they were burdened with heavy

financial reparations. Many of their young men died in the war, and their ability to pay back the

reparations seemed daunting. They were blamed, felt ridiculed, and their economy was in

shambles, worsened by the Great Depression. Germans wanted a strong leader or government,

someone or something to lead them back to stability. The themes of fascism are appealing to

those who crave stability and economic prosperity, even just strong guidance. As Hitler gained

and came to power, he promised a Germany fully restored back to its glory. He proposed the

eradication of the Jewish people, blaming them for the loss and humiliation of the First World

War. Some distinguished people at this time combined long-held dislike of Jewish people with

pseudoscience to prove people of Jewish descent were a type of sub-human (Heywood, 2017).

Hitler used these arguments to validate the Nuremberg Laws, a set of laws intended to strip

rights from Jewish peoples. Hitler wanted the “Aryan” Germans to return to their roots and

culture.
Similarly, Italy was not faring well either. Although Italian armies fought the Prussian

Empire, many Italians felt they were not allotted the proper amount of “spoils of war” from the

British, French, or Russians. They were not granted the rights to territory in Africa or Asia,

which embittered many Italians. The government was not always in favor of the war, and yet

they pumped the economy full of money, leading to inflation which left the economy in ruins

after the war was over (Di Palma, 2018). Many Italian men died during the war, and those who

returned found it difficult to find employment. Adding to that, the country experienced a handful

of different government leaders who held different philosophies for fixing Italy and the citizens

grew tired of the uncertainty. Even the middle class, who are the cornerstone of maintaining and

supporting democracy, began to find the Italian government useless (Di Palma, 2018). Italians

were experiencing economic hardship, felt underappreciated by the more powerful European

countries, and had a government that could not appease their concerns. Through these years of

unrest, Benito Mussolini managed to come to power in Italy, establishing a totalitarian fascist

regime (Heywood, 2017).

Unity and devotion are crucial to a fascist state, regardless of how or what the state uses

to gain those attributes. Nazi Germany promoted the eradication of the Jewish population, The

state had been promoting an idealistic future of “pure” Germans, living a traditional lifestyle.

Racism towards the Jewish people was created by the state, as a scapegoat for the issues

Germany faced. Unlike Italian fascism, where the state is the answer to any problems the country

is facing, the eradication of the Jewish people was supposedly the answer to Germany’s

problems. Through promoting an idealistic future of German people who looked a certain way,

living a traditional lifestyle in newly acquired land, that is a “goal” for the country to look

towards and strives towards.


Strength is incredibly important to fascist states. The state needs to show off the strength

of the military and expansion into Africa. Nazi Germany was famous for the proposal of

Lebensraum, living space for “pure” Germans to live a traditional lifestyle. Mussolini's plan for

expansion is one of the last things that connected the Italian leader and Hitler. Mussolini wanted

to gain control of Ethiopia among other African countries to create an Italian Empire. Showing

their military might encouraged confidence in Italians and Germans who felt ridiculed and

embarrassed, created jobs, and promoted extreme nationalism. By creating a state so strong and

the only answer to the citizens of those countries, a sense of dependency is created, along with

the fear that comes from threats from the totalitarian regimes. Italy strived to prove its worth,

both as a state and a nation. The state, led by Benito Mussolini, promoted unity and nearly

unquestioned devotion to the state. The government encouraged individuals to forgo their

personal freedoms in order for Italy to become strong and united in order to become better than

other countries (Heywood, 2017).

Racism was pertinent to Germany's fascist state. Racism is about power and who is able

to use their power to persecute a specific group of people. Hitler's goal for a master race is was

his reasoning for pushing into Eastern Europe and claiming land. He wanted to reincorporate

native Germans into the German state, as well as irradiate any people who were not German. The

Nazi party was able to murder millions of Jewish people, along with the Roma, opposers and

other minority groups. Ultimately, this was most likely able to begin and continue for so long

because Germans were either completely dedicated to the state and would not question the

authorities, either because they supported the actions or feared for themselves. It also showed the

power the government had against its own citizens. Germany without Jewish people was a

“utopian goal” the Third Reich could push towards (Holocaust Encyclopedia, “German Foreign
Policy, 1933-1945”). Mussolini supposedly had no issues with Jewish people, but he created the

Manifesto of Race, a numerous set of laws, some of which took away citizenship from Italian

Jews and their ability to hold political offices. Anti-Semitism did not take root in Italy as it did in

Germany, but those laws were made to show Mussolini's allegiance with Hitler (Italy and the

Holocaust Foundation, “Italian Racial Laws”).

Regardless of what each leader wanted to accomplish for their country, it is evident the

state was an incredibly useful tool. These men created encompassing governments and

organizations that were so powerfully revered or feared, that many of the Italian and German

citizens supported the state and the goals of these men.


References

Heywood, Andrew. (2017). Political Ideologies. (Sixth Edition). London, England: MacMillan

Publishers.

Italy and the Holocaust Foundation. “Italian Racial Laws”. Italy and the Holocaust, Inc.

http://www.italyandtheholocaust.org/about-the-foundation.aspx

Di Palma, Giuseppe. (2018, April 22). “Economic and political crisis: the “two red years” ”.

Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.

https://www.britannica.com/place/Italy/Economic-and-political-crisis-the-two-red-years

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “German Foreign Policy, 1933-1945”.

Holocaust Encyclopedia. https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/german-

foreign-policy-1933-1945